My partner and I stayed in Ilha for about a week and did three of Ilha Blue’s fabulous tours. As well as being lots of fun, they were all highly educational, perfectly organised and gave us a real chance to get to know our local guides. The best thing you can do on Ilha and money well spent.
The first tour we did was the overnight to deserted Ilha das Cobras (aka Sena Island), to kayak the tidal lagoons on the inside of the island. These were simply spectacular – crystal clear salt water that rises and falls with the outside tides, and exposes a complex cave system that we explored with snorkels and kayaks. The little camp site was very cool too, accessed by ducking under a coral shelf. Food was prepared fresh by the local chef, Ayuba, and the whole trip was expertly guided by Geito. Access was by means of a local dhow, which was a cool experience. Overall, a very good value adventure in a beautiful setting!
Our second tour was Ilha by bike with Selemany. Setting off on the sturdy and distinctive red Pashley bicycles, we headed for a meander through ancient streets and into the densely populated Makuti Town. Highlights included the traditional silver and goldsmith, the fish market, the many mosques and all the smiling faces. It was interesting getting Selemany’s views on the two “faces” of Ilha -the largely deserted and crumbling Stonetown side by side with the hugely overpopulated and desperately poor Makuti Town. Great tour and very informative, but understandably exposed so be sure to pack some suncream!
Having really enjoyed getting a local view I’d Ilha, we decided to book another tour with the energetic Selemany – an exploration of “missangas” aka the antique glass beads and treasures that wash up on Ilha’s beaches from colonial shipwrecks. This new (at time of writing) tour was a totally different experience again… Selemany has been trading glass beads and necklaces for years, as well as shards of original Ming pottery. He was quick to help us tell real from fake, explaining how these things came to be on which beach and how the local teenagers know where to dig in the sand. He showed us one young guy literally panning for colonial gold, turning up impossibly tiny flakes amid a huge pile of wet sand. Finally it was our turn, and we set about finding the colourful glass beads for ourselves. An hour later and we had had a small handful, as well as a new group of friends among the local kids, who came over to help us hunt for beads once they realised why two foreigners were poring over their beach. An unconventional tour but great fun, and it really helped us understand the true value of the strings of these glass beads you can buy all over Ilha. Believe us, finding them is harder than it looks!
Finally, and most importantly for us, the very welcoming owners, Gail and Pete, are on a mission to train and up-skill local guides, so every metacal you spend directly benefits the community. A great time with strong local benefits… what more can you ask?
Reviewer – London, UK